I have always found that Christmas is a natural time to reflect on life. It’s like a marker in the sand. This year seems particularly poignant in that way. Last Christmas I had just been diagnosed with cancer and all the treatment lay ahead of me. This Christmas the treatment is behind me and I am looking forward with fresh hope.
I am doing what might be called “summing up”. I think this is what the writer of the carol Oh little Town of Bethlehem was expressing when he penned the line “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”. It’s a kind of summary lyric. It summarises so much of what life is about in these two opposites; hope and fear.
But what the writer of the carol does, and what we should do is recognise that we are not just reflecting on life from a human perspective, but also from a divine perspective. We don’t experience the hopes and fears of life in a godless universe, but rather we experience these things with a God who gives us hope and who at the same time also knows our pain.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem in poverty and vulnerability He proved God’s total commitment to us, and His solidarity with us in our sufferings. He also brought hope that whatever we go through we will overcome in the end, because the baby in the manger IS the Lord of Life whom death could not hold and who was raised back to life for our salvation.
I’m really looking forward to Christmas this year, but not because I’ve nothing to worry about. That next scan in January, and the one after that (and the one after that…) will be enough to keep testing my nerves, but I am looking forward to Christmas because all those fears are put into a different perspective by Jesus and what He means to me, and He is the source of my ultimate hope.
God Bless you this Christmas as you reflect on what has happened through 2015 and become aware again of your hopes and fears. May you also know the difference that the birth of Christ in Bethlehem makes to all those aspirations and anxieties you carry, because “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”.
Mark Wickenden, Minister